Mt. 21:33- 43
It is not necessary to remind anyone how we as a nation have been rocked by tragedy after tragedy over the past month and a half. Beginning on August 26 when Harvey slammed into Texas to the latest tragedy in Las Vegas we have seen both the good and the evil in people.
Paul tells us this day to do what is honorable, just; pure, gracious and we will discover the peace of God will reign in our hearts. He continues to tell us to find what is worthy of praise in all things and to focus on these things. His epistle could not come at a better time for us as we have seen the loss of life, homes and how people are reacting nationwide to the catastrophes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and now Nevada.
Yet beginning with Texas we have seen a remarkable side of Americans as they rushed to aid the 30,000 displaced from their homes. We witnessed something remarkable as people in Texas disregarded race, status, religion or age as they rushed to provide aid those in need. I am proud of my fellow Louisianans – “the Cajun navy” – who loaded up their boats and rushed into the snake and alligator infested flood waters to rescue anyone in need.
We witnessed this same selfishness in Florida and in the Caribbean. I believe that there is a goodness implanted into each one of us because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are just now learning the stories of heroism from the people in Las Vegas as they rushed into a hail of bullets to protect, assisted others to find safety or aid those wounded or offering comfort to those who were dying. Why would anyone do that? Don’t we all agree we are a selfish, self centered, pampered society who only concern is our own pleasure? The scriptures tell us that is who we are and left to ourselves we would do no good thing.
There had to be something else going on in Huston and those other places other than this goodness implanted within us by our creator. We do not have to be a Christian to do acts of kindness because even the “pagans” do these selfless things (Rom. 2:14-15). There has to be something more going on within us that goes beyond just going to the aid of someone in need. Why is it that we can respond to the need of people when they are struck by a tragedy and at the same time we pass up that person standing by the roadside asking for a handout? In one instance we are quick to see a need and in the other instant we make a judgment about the character of the person standing with their hand out.
Jesus once again in today’s gospel is calling us to take a hard look at ourselves. He is chastising the religious leaders and elite once more. This in itself should make us pause and reflect on our own religious piety. The gospels are clear we are our brother’s keeper and we are called to give witness to the kingdom of God in word and deed. How can we distinguish the kind acts done by those who believe and responded because they saw someone in need from someone who does not believe but who has also responded to the same tragedy?
I am going to tell you something that may seem harsh but it needs to be said – we who believe know our motivation and it does not matter what others know about our motivation. However while we are doing that act of mercy we should give witness to our faith in Jesus Christ. If we have an oppottunity to let the world know our motivation then we should be ready to let them know we did it because our faith would not let us turn our back on anyone in need.
In one sense the material world needs to know our motivation to respond to others in need is becasue we are called make the gospel known. If the only people who see us doing good are the people who see us each week in church what good does that do. However, if the world of non- church goers or non-believers sees us handing a dollar to that person on the side of the road or rushing into a hail of bullets then we have an opportunity to let them know we did it because our faith compels us to be compassionate and generous at all times.
We are not kind and generous because it is inherent in our hearts as design by God but we are kind and generous because we are serving the kingdom of God. This means more is involved than just an instinctive need to respond. This means we respond because of the same reason Jesus touched the leper – to let them know God knows what they are going through and God desires to let them know he will never abandon them. There was more than compassion involved in what we saw in Huston because it is fueled by something deeper and that was faith in God and a concern for a brother and sister in need.
We have to understand more is required of us who believe in Jesus Christ. What we have to share goes far beyond a rescue or tending a wound. What is required of us is to do these things instinctively but also to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those we have the opportunity to rescue. There is in your friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers a need to be rescued from their own life of tragedy, loss, hopelessness and fear. We are challenged today to understand we do live in the kingdom of God right here on earth and that requires us to always be at work to bear fruit and help others discover their place in the kingdom of God.